Thursday, November 22, 2007

Gee whiz in Berlin

Nothing brings out the little boy in me like a cool machine. And I walked around the Martin-Gropius-Bau show called "From Sparks to Pixels" like a wide-eyed 6th grader. Neat!

All kinds of toys and contraptions and whooziwuzzits were on display. I can't say all of them had me thinking of art, but the show certainly held my attention from start to finish (and we know how short the attention span of a sixth-grader is!). The best of them were remarkable.

The first work to really catch my eye was Gregory Barsamian's "The Scream". The press release for the show describes, "Gregory Barsamian combines his love of animation, sculpture and mechanics together with his strangest dreams. He avoids the heaviness of the zoetrope drum – that ancient forerunner of cinema – thanks to a stroboscope that is synchronized to the circular rotation of his sculptures. In this way, for each flash of the stroboscope, one sculpture representing a stage of the metamorphosis follows after the other, giving the impression of a constant transformation of its shape, the film being replaced by the material. " On a spinning wheel, Barsamian places a sculpture that is in a progression like a series of gels in a cartoon or a series of stills in a movie. In this sense the work is perfectly photographic and cinematic, yet it's turned on its head by being 3 dimensional and 100% sculptural. I sat and watched, and watched , and watched.

Christian Partos of Sweden had three works that seduced. The first was a maquette of a proscenium of a burlesque show. On the stage, the shadow of a dancer was limned by two criss-crossing spotlights. Only there was no dancer there. We had the undulating shadow of a woman as she strips onstage, yet there was no body or representation of a body to be seen. Talk about a tease. It was fun.

In M.O.M. - Multi Oriented Mirror, five thousand slanted mirrors reflect the illuminated wall on the opposite side of the room. By using micro gradations of slanting angle, each reflection has a different shade of gray. The reflections create a portrait of his deceased mother. It is trompe l'oeil at it's most beguiling - creepy and transient. It seemed the very essence of a ghostly visage.

Visp, is a light installation full of playful and hypnotic references.The piece is a continuously changing shape made of 5 light-wires, 30 feet long, spinning like skipping-ropes (imagine the playground game with 2 girls spinning multiple jump ropes for a third to skip in and out of). A computer, which also revolves, switches LEDs on and off to create animated patterns on the revolving surface. This was full-on gee whiz cool. The only thing that could have made it cooler for 6th grade eyes would be if someone could have gotten hurt by watching it.

Last on my list, and very much for adult eyes was Thomas McIntosh's Ondulation. The wall text states, "Ondulation created by Thomas McIntosh in collaboration with Mikko Hynninen and Emmanuel Madan is a composition for water, sound and light. McIntosh plays with the reflection of light on the surface of the water, which is set into motion by sound. The pool becomes a liquid mirror, visualising these motions and reflections." The piece is a huge installation in an even larger open room. In the center is a pool approximately 20x10 feet. Various lights are set around the room. Sound is directed into the pool creating patterns and textures on the water. As the sound changes (in very slow, minimalist sections), so does the light. We see white raking light, blue light from above, flashing lights - each of them interacting at that moment with whatever pattern is in the water to make a reflection on the back wall of the room. Think Turrell in 3-D with sound. This was great. I sat for long minutes to see what the next wave would bring. It was meditative in the best sense (I guess you could say meditation inspiring). It also made me want to keep looking and coming back to see again like the best art does. It also had a photographic slant to me in that it seemed that the light was being used to "print" on the surface of the water. Not permanent like a gelatin emulsion, but somehow photographic.

I hope the whole show comes to New York. It would be a big hit if we could find someplace that could house the scale of it. If it came, I would be a kid in a candy store.....

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